The Minoans and the Atlantis Legend

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Minoan women

Minoan women (fresco painting)

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The Minoans were an advanced peaceful civilization that lived in comfort with paved streets and sewers that were unheard of in the ancient world. They dedicated themselves to art and the love of life. They valued the natural world and created a naturalistic art style that is remarkable even by modern standards and was far advanced for the time. Thier joy in life shows in the remarkable frescoes that survive filled with vivid color, and finding beauty in both small and large things.


They valued leisure time and practiced sophisticated athletic recreation. Women in Minoan culture had as important a place as men and economically all prospered, not just a wealthy few. Everyone appears to have lived in prosperity, unlike other ancient cultures. It was matrilineal, that is people traced their descent through the female, rather than the male line, and women played as important a role in the society as men. They did not feel the need for a standing army, and appear to have avoided military conflict. They were so sure of their security, perhaps because of their large fleet, that they lived in unfortified cities along the coast, again unheard of in this time of constant warfare.

Although there is much that we don't know about the Minoans, what we do know paints a remarkable picture of a society that was free of most of the problems that continue to plague us today. The later Greeks, looking back on this amazing culture, might well have thought of it as a utopia, a perfect place of knowledge, peace and prosperity. Many have suggested that the Minoans might well be the people that formed the basis of the legend of Atlantis, though other locations have been suggested over the years. The Minoans may be the best fit.

The legend of Atlantis first appears in western literature in the works of Plato. He speaks of Atlantis in his dialogues Kritias and Timaios. He reports that the Atlantians were a strong people who were virtuous and lived in peace. They had divine origins and were altogether remarkable. In time their divine nature faded and human nature asserted itself, leading to the decline of the Atlantians. The gods destroyed Atlantis in a single day and night by earthquakes and floods, and sunk it into the sea, leaving only mud behind. Plato reports through Kritias that it was a story which came from the Egyptians. The loss of perfection has fascinated us since, and there has been much speculation about the location of the lost city. Plato's purpose in writing about Atlantis was to tell a moral tale and to glorify Athens. Although most agree that there was a story of a lost civilization, no one can tell to what extent Plato might have embellished or manipulated the facts for his purposes. But if you look at the germ of the story - an advanced peaceful island civilization which disappeared suddenly by natural disaster - you have something very like the Minoans.

Could the Minoans be the people so distantly remembered in the time of Plato? Recent discoveries about their disappearance have supported this theory.

Part of The Minoans a HistoryWiz exhibit

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